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January, 2008

Yuk Yuks

Active Indian Action Access
India agog over English
By  Buzz Burza

If “critical listening” is the key thing I perfected during a recent stint teaching English pronunciation, then critical reading is what I’ve developed over the last half year writing my thoughts for fellow scribes.

I have also become amazed at how much is published concerning writing or writers – IN, perhaps, being the example that most brightly shines.  

For the past month, the Indian English press has been agog over the publication of Vikram Seth’s newest book, a biographical reminiscence of his London-based dentist uncle and his Jewish-German wife, entitled Two Lives.
Seth has graced the front pages of all major daily papers and been given ample coverage in various periodicals. The man is a star because he’s beating the country's former rulers at their own linguistic game. He and Salmon Rushdie are India’s point men in this contest.

Arundhati Roy heads the female contingent. She has published nothing since the phenomenal splash of her first book, A God Of Small Things. Rather, she has used the proceeds to pursue the many socially relevant issues that are so dear to her heart.

The criteria I use are the extraordinary advances they have been given by their publishers, as well as their unparalleled sales worldwide and the slew of prestigious literary awards they have garnered.
Seth states that he writes between 10 and 15 hours a day, a fact I find daunting, if not horrifying.  I once acted in a couple of television commercials that also featured Seth’s sister. She told me her brother perpetually pestered the family to listen to whatever he was writing. Some think Seth will eventually win the Nobel Prize. My guess is that you know if you have it. He knows he has it.
For several years my wife Vidhu and I have been part of a sweet, usually monthly, book club meet, discussion followed by dinner. At the group’s core are a gaggle of literature professors, maybe five Yanks out of 20.

Seth’s book is next on the docket, and one of the profs knows Lilia Seth, Vikram’s jurist-cum-intellectual mother, and spoke as if her attendance is imminent. Because of the professional core of the group, many local writers have joined, affording the perfect opportunity to interact with local writers.

I’ve written before about the growth in literacy fueling the local print market. Very few of first generation literates will speak anything but their local language -- of which there are, officially, 22. There exists a vibrant vernacular press of which I know knowing. This is part of the social fabric that makes South Asia, and consequently yours truly, what it is today.

Before the British left India, South Asia was similar to West Europe at the time. Here, linguistically distinct groupings eventually acquired political form of states. The Brits had tied the whole joint up with a railway run on a common currency. The 500 odd [and some were truly odd] princely states were melded into this mix.
From the very beginning of the modern state of India, English was the main link language for both the public and private sector. If you wanted to be successful, a working knowledge of English has been essential. Underlying all is an English vernacular press that can’t be beat. I found it humbling to think that the my essays of gracing the Times of India’s editorial pages have been printed more than a million times and have part of the days of some extremely influential people.
I would appreciate hearing specific questions any of you may have about India []. Shri Ganga Din did indeed reply but his work precluded the suggested lunch. I parried with a counter offer of dinner, tea, drinks, whatever, wherever, whenever.

I have yet to hear.IN Icon

Buzz Burza is a freelance writer, photographer, teacher, lecturer, film actor and print distribution consultant living in New Delhi, India. Email:

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Part III: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You
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Part I: What Your Publisher Won't Tell You
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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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